TV & Movies

Tick, Tick… Boom! Is Full Of Rent Easter Eggs

Yes, you’ve heard that answering machine greeting before.

Did You Catch These 'Tick, Tick… Boom!' Easter Eggs From 'Rent'?
MACALL POLAY/NETFLIX © 2021
By Eliza Thompson

Say what you will about Lin-Manuel Miranda, but there’s no denying that the man loves an Easter egg. Hamilton is one big three-hour game of spot the hip-hop reference, and this past summer’s film adaptation of In the Heights contains more than a few nods to other touchstones in his life and career. It should therefore come as no surprise that his directorial debut, the Netflix film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s musical Tick, Tick... Boom!, also contains a ton of Easter eggs. There are about a thousand Broadway cameos as well as a handful of nods to classic shows like Sunday in the Park With George. But one of Miranda’s biggest influences is, of course, Rent.

Larson started writing Rent in 1989 while he was waiting tables at New York City’s Moondance Diner. After a workshop in 1993, the show premiered Off-Broadway in January 1996 and quickly became a hit. Larson, however, never got to see how successful his musical became — he died of an aortic dissection on the day of Rent’s debut.

Larson’s other musical, Tick, Tick... Boom!, never became quite the phenomenon that Rent did, but that’s poised to change with the release of Miranda’s new movie, starring Andrew Garfield as Larson. “​​There’s this childlike, 8-year-old [quality about Miranda], which is constant,” Garfield told Bustle in this month’s cover story when talking about the movie. “Everything is possible.”

Keep reading for eight callbacks to Rent that you might have missed in the new film.

1

The Cast

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Several of the film’s supporting cast members have performed in various productions of Rent over the years. Mj Rodriguez, who plays Jon’s friend and diner coworker Carolyn, starred as Angel in a 2011 Off-Broadway revival. Robin de Jesús, who appears as Jon’s best friend Michael, made his Broadway debut in the show, playing small roles in the show’s 2005 production and as an understudy for Angel. And Vanessa Hudgens, who plays singer Karessa Johnson, has played both Mimi and Maureen, the former in a Hollywood Bowl production, and the latter in 2019’s Rent: Live on Fox.

2

Pookie

Early in Tick, Tick... Boom!, Jon calls Michael by the nickname “Pookie” when entering the apartment. Rent fans will recall that little endearment as the one Maureen uses on her lovers when she wants something — in the song “Tango: Maureen,” Mark asks, “Has she ever pouted her lips and called you Pookie?” — much to the chagrin of Mark and Joanne.

3

Santa Fe

When Jon takes a gig in a focus group at Michael’s advertising firm, an executive played by Tony Award–winner Laura Benanti asks everyone to ideate on the concept of America. After the group’s initial brainstorm run, the phrase “Santa Fe” is visible on a whiteboard in the background of the frame. The New Mexico city is also the title of a song from Rent.

4

Roger, Mimi, and Angel

In the star-studded diner scene when Jon sings “Sunday,” three members of the original Broadway cast of Rent cameo as dancers and chorus members: Daphne Rubin-Vega (Mimi), Adam Pascal (Roger), and Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel).

5

The Name Roger

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Joshua Henry, a three-time Tony nominee, plays Jon’s friend Roger, who sings alongside Karessa in the opening number. The character shares a name with the guitar-clad romantic in Rent, and both men are named after Larson’s good friend and collaborator Roger Bart, who worked alongside Larson at the Moondance Diner. (According to Slate, Bart appears in an opening scene in Tick, Tick... Boom!, seated in the diner opposite James C. Nicola, who lead the New York Theater Workshop during Larson’s time.)

6

Speak!

Jon’s answering machine greeting is simply him saying the word “speak.” Rent fans will recall that this is the same greeting Roger and Mark use on their answering machine at the loft.

7

“One Song Glory”

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As Jon fiddles away on his keyboard at the final, climactic song in Superbia, he taps out the opening notes to Rent’s famous tune “One Song Glory.” And while it’s not an Easter egg, per se, another song in the movie — “Boho Days” — is thematically similar to Rent’s “La Vie Bohème.” When Tick, Tick... Boom! premiered Off-Broadway in 2001, “Boho Days” was not part of the show, but Miranda & Co. added it back in for the film adaptation.

8

The Cat Scratch Club

In Rent, Mimi works at The Cat Scratch Club (“That’s where I work, I dance,” she sings at Roger in “Light My Candle”). In a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it scene in Tick, Tick... Boom!, the storefront appears on a busy New York street.